What is covered in this FAQ?

This page provides brief answers to questions that are frequently asked about Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. It gives a quick overview of the company, its history, and its products. If you would like more information about the topics covered here, use the text links to view more detailed articles or use our Contact Us form to write to us.

What is Merriam-Webster?

Merriam-Webster is America's foremost publisher of language-related reference works. The company publishes a diverse array of print and online resources, including America's best-selling desk dictionary, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (published on the Web as Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary), Merriam-Webster's Intermediate Dictionary (published on our Word Central site as Merriam-Webster's Online Student Dictionary), Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Thesaurus (published on Word Central as Merriam-Webster’s Online Student Thesaurus), and Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.

Does Merriam-Webster have any connection to Noah Webster?

Merriam-Webster can be considered the direct lexicographical heir of Noah Webster. In 1843, the company bought the rights to the 1841 edition of Webster's magnum opus, An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged. At the same time, they secured the rights to create revised editions of the work. Since that time, Merriam-Webster editors have carried forward Noah Webster's work, creating some of the most widely used and respected dictionaries and reference books in the world. For more information, see the on-line article Who Was Noah Webster?

When was Merriam-Webster founded?

In 1831, brothers George and Charles Merriam opened a printing and bookselling operation in Springfield, Massachusetts which they named G. & C. Merriam Co. The company, which was renamed Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, in 1982, has been in continuous operation since that time. For more information on the history of Merriam-Webster, see the on-line article The History of America's First Dictionary.

How long has Merriam-Webster been publishing dictionaries?

The first Merriam-Webster dictionary was issued on September 24, 1847. It cost $6.00 per copy and earned the praise of such notable figures as President James K. Polk and General Zachary Taylor. For more information, see the on-line article The History of America's First Dictionary.

Which dictionary and thesaurus are used in Merriam-Webster's Word Central?

The dictionary included in Word Central is Merriam-Webster's Online Student Dictionary, which is an online version of Merriam-Webster's Intermediate Dictionary (© 2004 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated). That dictionary was specially edited for students ages 11-14. The online version contains more than 70,000 entries, 730 color illustrations, 300 word history paragraphs, 170 synonym paragraphs, and abundant examples showing how words are used in context. The thesaurus included is Merriam-Webster’s Online Student Thesaurus, which is an online version of Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Thesaurus (© 2004 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated). Especially for students ages 11-14, the online version of this thesaurus contains thousands of synonyms, related words, idiomatic phrases, near antonyms, and antonyms.

Are all Webster's dictionaries alike?

No. After Noah Webster's death in 1843 and throughout the 19th century, Merriam-Webster produced the finest American dictionaries, building the reputation of the name Webster's to a point where it became a byword for quality dictionaries. But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, legal difficulties concerning the copyright and trademark of the name Webster arose, and eventually many different publishers -- some rather unscrupulous -- began putting dictionaries on the market under the Webster's name.

The net effect of the proliferation of Webster dictionaries is a reference-book marketplace in which consumers are unaware of or confused about what differentiates one Webster from another. In an attempt to draw attention to the issue, in 1982 the company changed its name from G. & C. Merriam Company to Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. In 1991, the company reinforced that move by introducing the phrase "Not just Webster. Merriam-Webster.TM " to further identify and distinguish its products and to place greater emphasis on a tradition of quality dictionary-making that we feel is uniquely ours.

Other publishers may use the name Webster, but only Merriam-Webster products are backed by over 150 years of accumulated knowledge and experience. The Merriam-Webster name is your assurance that a reference work carries the quality and authority of a company that has been publishing since 1831.

How can I contact Merriam-Webster with questions about their products?

You can use our Contact Us form to write to us or you can send a fax to the attention of the Sales Department at (413) 731-5979.

If you prefer to write to us the old-fashioned way, our address is:

Merriam-Webster Inc. 47 Federal Street P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102

How can I send comments or questions to Merriam-Webster about Word Central?

We'd love to hear what you think of the new design and enhanced content of Word Central, Merriam-Webster's area for kids on the World Wide Web. To send us your comments, use our Contact Us form to write to us. Merriam-Webster editors will read every comment sent to us, but we may not be able to send personal responses because of the large volume of mail we receive.